Thursday, January 15, 2009

How To Get a Head of Advertising

The following is an excerpt from How To Get a Head of Advertising by Ben Shakey. It will be published by Age of Persuasion Press in February, 2009

She was too attractive ride on the sky train.

Ricky looked around at the other passengers, squeezed into the box car that slid along the center rail leaving the Commercial and Grandview station. They looked like the black and white pictures of boat loads of mutli-cultured immigrants arriving in the harbour.

They were the people that actually bought fast food. Fat and greasy, eating fries by the fist full off a plastic tray.

She was the people in the fast food commercials. Thin with shining blonde hair - blonde all the way down the roots unlike the graffiti style streaks that ran across the other heads on the train.
She wore sweat pants to work out. The others actually wore sweat pants to work.

The thing Ricky found most beautiful though, was her skin. It was clean and soft and free of advertisements.

The train, the train station, the fast food restaurants, the crosswalks, every section of the world was now equipped with projectors sending messages of consumption across people’s bodies. Even the appliances in your home would spray brandings across your skin. An evening meal or an intimate undressing contained images developed and tested by a marketing team.

There were objections to the earliest of these FAMS; these facial spams as they were referred to then. Industry poured millions into the defence. Industry was no longer about profit but principle and any attempt to curb FAMing was an attempt to rip the wings off free speech and democracy.

The courts protected the right to advertise. People could choose not to receive it. The antivuris industry was created.

The public could purchase a new antivirus and wear it, notifying projectors they did not wish to receive the FAMS. Every week a new antivirus was needed to block out the new ads. If you couldn’t afford the antivirus you could receive one for free that blocked other ads in exchange for displaying that company's ads.

Most of the commuters on the train chose this. Their faces glistened and blinked with tales of improving lifestyle and appearance.

But she was ad free. Ricky wasn’t even sure if he ever saw an ad free face before. He had no children so he never seen one pure from advertising. Even the few newborns he saw at the maternity ward had already been exposed to advertising with images of formula and cartoon characters endorsing diapers projected into their cribs.

The very rich could afford expensive shields but none that left them unblemished. Even the wealthiest celebrities were exposed to ads in the warfare like tactics used to project associations on them. There were even cases of the famous being paid to take on a facial endorsement. The wildest rumours were of the founder of the projection system living in an island compound free of ads.

She brushed her hair back from her face. There it was. On her forehead was a single logo; the curled childish letters of the latest Disney film. Her forehead announced simultaneous release dates on May 9th with versions for children and an expanded R rated cut full of dirty jokes for adults.

Why was she on the train? Did her car break down? If she could afford that kind of protection she could afford to call a cab? She could afford the insurance to have a tow and a lift come get her.

“Maybe she’s like me” thought Ricky. Ricky was between jobs and heading to his next job interview. Like most people in the current workforce Ricky was laid off every three to six months. Most employers developed projects and launches rather than long term employees. In the week or so he spent looking for work Ricky took the train while he lived entirely off his credit card.

“Are you heading to the hiring fair down at Hornby street?” He asked her.

She looked at him and smiled with perfect white teeth that were as free from ads as a blank canvas. “This is actually my stop.”

She stepped off the train and moved into another car without even trying to conceal her lie.

As the door closed behind her Ricky saw himself in the window reflection. Scrawled on his forehead like a tabloid headline was “LOSE 30 POUNDS IN 30 DAYS “Over his chin it read “MAKE YOUR LOVE TOOL BIGGER!”

Ricky used the antivirus provided by his last employer. It ran ads for his company but it kept out most of the others. It ran out just then and now he had no protection. He was covered in the basest forms of ads. The desperate bulk send outs for porn, sex enhancers, credit aid, and unaccredited online universities.

He failed the interview miserably and blamed the sleazy triple xxx shout outs that were tattooed all over him.

That night he sold his stocks and maxxed out his credit cards.

The brochure guaranteed only one to two ads would slip onto his head a day and they could often be covered with large sunglasses or even a tilted hat visor.

He stood on the train the next day, needing to nail this interview and start paying off this antivirus, when he saw her again.

“Excuse me” He said to her. He held up his cup of coffee and gestured to the machine. “Can I buy you a cup?”

She ignored him.

“Excuse me” he asked again “I’m sorry, excuse me.”

She turned, dropped a coin in his cup and walked away fast and frightened.

Laughing came from the corner of the skytrain station.

Ricky looked at the homeless man, the bum, mocking him. He was the lowest level of this society. Entirely ignored and voiceless. No one, not even the saddest commuter on the train, associated with him.

As a result, he was the one person that the ad men left alone. His grizzled face was free of ads. His physical endorsement was actually a negative.

Ricky just spent his life savings to look just like him.

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